Almost six years ago I was on my way to pick up my aunt on a Sunday afternoon to run some errands. When I arrived, something didn’t feel quite right.
I had just gotten off the phone with her about 15 minutes prior to let her know I was on my way, yet she didn’t come out when I texted her to let her know I was in her driveway with my three young kids in tow.
I waited a bit thinking she was in the shower. This time I called her. Again, no answer. At that point, due to growing concern, I decided to get out of the car to investigate and peeked in the window as I was on my way to the front porch door.
I couldn’t believe what I saw. My aunt, who was in her mid-60s, was lying on the ground in the middle of her living room appearing motionless. I immediately called 911 as I quickly made my way inside. They guided me through how to best support her until the medics arrived. As I approached, her eyes were open and she was trying to get her head off the floor. She had lost full functioning of the rest of her body. It was determined she had a stroke.
Less than a year prior, she moved to the Oley Valley to be closer to family, and she was a ball of fun. I adored having easy access to spend time with her, but on that day in 2016 the fun came to a crashing halt. I would never be able to have a two-way conversation with my aunt again because she never regained her speech, and the rest of our time was spent in hospital rooms until she passed away due to other health complications in 2017.
This month is National Stroke Awareness Month, and according to the National PACE Association, goals of this year’s campaign are to help reduce stroke risk and take people behind the scenes of what happens when someone experiences a stroke.
There are many ways you can participate during this month of awareness that surrounds a leading cause of death in the U.S, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke is also a major cause of serious disability for adults.
Some of the guidance offered centers on prevention, such as the Steps to Stop Stroke step challenge that is aimed to promote regular physical activity, which can reduce one’s risk for stroke.
There are other ways you can take action and commit to making a change to improve a stroke risk factor. They include eating a diet that’s low in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol; if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation; and discontinuing the use of tobacco.
Overall, making healthy lifestyle choices can lower your risk of stroke just as unhealthy choices can increase it. It’s ideal to discuss any lifestyle changes with your health care team.
Taking action in a timely manner can mean all the difference when it comes to effective treatment because according to the CDC, the stroke treatments that work best are available only if the stroke is recognized within three hours of the first symptoms. If a stroke patient doesn’t arrive at the hospital in time, it can limit options for effective treatment.
Signs of stroke to take note of, for both men and women, according to the American Stroke Association, include sudden numbness or weakness in face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination; and a sudden severe headache with no known cause.
If you or anyone experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 right away. It’s important to note the time when any symptoms first appeared. If you experience symptoms, the CDC recommends not driving yourself to the hospital and instead let someone else drive you or call 911 to get an ambulance so they can begin lifesaving measures on the way.
If you share these helpful tips with friends and family during National Stroke Awareness Month there is a chance you might help save a life.
For more information
National PACE Association: www.npaonline.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov
American Stroke Association: www.cdc.govhttp://www.cdc.gov